Posts Tagged ‘dessert’

Kurt, Steven and Yelp are Close to my Heart

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Last night brought another delicious Yelp Elite Event into my life – this time we were welcomed by Bar 21 in the Northern Quarter to sample their wares and check out their disco-tastic dance floors. In recognition of Bar21‘s ‘Movie ‘n’ Music’ theme, the evening was to be focussed on all things famous. It was suggested that we dress up as something film-related. Considering my very poor effort at the previous Elite event where we were asked to dress in ‘Summer attire’ and I wore sunglasses, I decided to actually think about my outfit for this event. With the use of my office’s printing facilities, a pair of scissors and a box of safety pins, I transformed an average red dress into HOMAGE TO B-GRADE MALE ACTION MOVIE STARS THAT I LOVE.

So many handsome men have attached themselves to me.

So many handsome men have attached themselves to me.

Steven, Kurt, Chuck, Jean-Claude, Arnie and co were well received by my fellow Yelpers and there were some mighty fine film and music related tees worn on the night as well.

I had never been to Bar21 before and, to be honest, I had purposefully avoided it. From the outside it had always appeared a bit concrete and uncomfortable, so I was pleasantly surprised when I ventured inside and discovered a bright and cheery bar full of memorabilia. Anywhere with a giant photograph from Back From the Future on the wall is a winner in my world.

We were allowed to choose a drink from their extensive Happy Hour list and Hannah and I were particularly happy to see that Doom Bar ale was an option. An excellent start to the evening.

The super friendly staff made us feel very welcome and took us on a tour of their downstairs dance floor. I think I will need to return for some serious hot-stepping one evening. It has been a long time since my last dance session… too long.

Next was a cocktail master class where we were shown how to make two drinks and then allowed to sample the tasty concoctions. Unfortunately (although probably luckily for our brain cells) there were 30 Yelpers and 15 glasses of each drink so there were a few sharpened elbows pushing their way through to get their drink of choice. Humans + free alcohol = messy. Hannah and I decided sharing is caring and went halfsies. The cocktails were good although neither would be something I’d normally choose. One had a cream layer and the other tasted like liquid Haribo. SWEEEEEEEET.

Mixology madness

Mixology madness

After the cocktails we were all in need of some food and we were overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of dishes put out for us to gorge on. It was a meatlovers’ delight with chorizo, salami, ribs, burgers and more kinds of chicken wings than I’ve seen in a long time. And it was tasty! I wouldn’t normally have chosen to come to Bar21 for food but I was really impressed with what I ate. The beef burgers were served with proscuitto and blue cheese – so good. Sadly, they were also drenched in some sort of brown sauce that was far too strong and completely overpowered all of the flavours. After I had attempted to remove most of the sauce the burger was definitely a winner on my plate.

Food! Photo credit: Hannah's phone.

Food! Photo credit: Hannah’s phone.

Dessert came out as we were still stuffing our faces – lime curd or chocolate mousse tartlets were our choices. Surprisingly I went for the lime as the chocolate didn’t look dark enough for my liking. And the lime was good – nice and sharp and served in a deliciously buttery pastry. Yum.

If we hadn’t consumed enough, out came a birthday cake to celebrate Yelp Manchester’s 10th birthday. Marzipan covered red velvet cake anyone? Yes please. As we forced the cake into our mouths (ok, there was no force involved. It was delicious.) Bar21‘s Thursday night quiz began and in our teams of 4, 5 or 6, we competed to the death to win great prizes and ultimate glory. My team failed miserably and finished in third-last place. We were largely let down by the Australian on our team who didn’t know how many stars were on her own country’s flag. Yep. For shame.

As the evening came to a close and I headed home to bed like the Grandma I have become, I felt that great sense of pure satisfaction after you have had a great night out. Good food, good drinks, good friends, good times. Looking forward to Yelping it up once again in September.

P.S. My stupid phone died during the cocktail master class so I have a serious lack of photographs of food. Very disappointing.

Disappointing Dessert

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

I had high hopes for Rosylee Tea Rooms in the Northern Quarter. They opened their doors towards the end of summer last year and I had been wanting to try their food since. On Thursday night, after being ‘arty and stuff’ and attending an exhibition opening, Pooja and I had dinner at Soup Kitchen before heading across the road to Rosylee for dessert. We were excited. We had heard good things and the photographs on their website suggested we were going to be very happy.

It wasn’t a great start – the staff ignored us as we walked in and looked obviously annoyed that we had entered their restaurant at 8.30pm when they had seem some potential for closing early. We were eventually invited to take a seat of our choosing and we then were presented with dessert menus. Rosylee has a fancy-vibe going for it. Lots of shiny things, black and white furnishings and the waitstaff look like they want to take your coat. It could be elegant but the restaurant was half-empty so it just felt a bit uncomfortable.

I went down a classic route and chose the plum and apple crumble served with cinnamon clotted cream. It was the clotted cream that got me and I promised to share some of it with Pooja. The chocolate item on the menu was a chocolate marquis with cherry which I knew I wouldn’t like because chocolate should never, ever, ever be put together with cherry or orange. Plus I was feeling like something cozy and comforting so crumble it was.

Apple and plum crumble

Apple and plum crumble

It was disappointing. I could have made a better crumble – the apple and the plum were both undercooked and the crumble topping had nothing interesting to it. Plus the custard was lumpy. The clotted cream was good (of course) but that’s because it is clotted cream and it is impossible for that not to taste amazing.

Pooja chose a Baileys crème brûlée which tasted nothing like Baileys. And it was overcooked and slightly curdled.

Baileys crème brûlée

Baileys crème brûlée

Both dishes looked very pretty and there was a moment of joy when they were placed in front of us. But sadly the joy ended as we dipped our over-sized spoons into delicate pots. Such a shame.

We had both independently decided against ordering tea when we had seen the price – £3.60. That’s a lot of money for some hot water and tea leaves. We were sad that our Rosylee Tea Room experience hadn’t been more successful, and while we agreed they weren’t the worst desserts we have ever eaten, they were overpriced and just not great. The final interesting moment was when our bill was plonked down on our table, signalling it was time for us to leave. And most likely never go back.

Rewind to Christmas

Monday, December 31st, 2012

I realised I never blogged about Ben and my Amazing-Christmas-Dinner-Feast-For-Two so allow me to do so now, mainly through photographs. Neither of us could be called chefs (Ben is certainly a baker but a whole chicken is a lot different to a ball of dough), but if the help of a National Trust english cookbook, we made one mighty fine roast chicken. To go with it, we had some delicious buttery brussel sprouts, broccolini and asparagus, crunchy roasted potatoes, and it was all followed by gooey chocolate puddings. It was one seriously good Christmas dinner and our night was made even more special by watching the all-time family classic, Hook. RU-FI-OOOO!

Better than KFC.

Better than KFC.

The recipe made six puddings which sounded like a good idea at the time...

The recipe made six puddings which sounded like a good idea at the time…

Mmmm... chocolate pudding...

My Life is Chocolate

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Over the past two weeks, I have consumed a significantly large amount of chocolate flavoured goods. I thought I might recap and make you all feel excruciatingly jealous and demonstrate how exactly I spend my time in Paris. Bon appétit!

Colorova Chocolate cake

Chocolate mousse and red currant cake from Colorova

Chocolate soufflé cake

Chocolate soufflé with a slab of Venezuelan dark chocolate from Le Dorcia

Le Jardin d'en Face chocolate cake

Gateau chocolat de grandmére from Le Jardin d’en Face

Chocolate fondant

Mi-cuit chocolat from Les Enfants Perdus

Pierre Hermé macaron

Chocolate and salted butter caramel macaron

Chocolate birthday cake

Grande Cru chocolate cake from La Pâtisserie des Rêves (Terrible, terrible photo but it was pitch black when I tried to photograph it…)

Pie.

Monday, April 30th, 2012

As I mentioned in my last entry, one of the main reasons why I am uncertain about my ability to complete the 40-in-40 challenge is that I need to eat. However, I will claim baking and the invention of desserts as a creative challenge. Therefore my strawberry and rhubarb pie that I baked to take to my friends’ house for dinner counts.

Strawberry and rhubarb pie

Pie.

It was a bit of a flop. It tasted ok but the pastry didn’t turn out how I hoped and it exploded in the oven, so as far as baking successes go, this wasn’t really one of them. However, we learn from our mistakes, don’t we kids? Next time I know to be less lazy and make my own pastry rather than blindly buying pre-made pastry from the supermarket and choosing the wrong one. Oops.

One of the Greatest Eating Experiences of My Life

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

I love eating, I do it a lot. Sometimes I really enjoy what I am eating, other times not so much. Sometimes it is somewhere in the middle. For me, an eating experience is more than just the food – it is the people who serve it to me, where the food comes from, and the location that I eat it in. All of these factors, if put together correctly, can create a life changing experience. And I, Jessica Davies, had one of these experiences in Manchester (of all places).

To me, Manchester is industrial revolution, cotton mills, and football. Sure, I know it is a growing city and the idea of there being good places to eat there doesn’t surprise me, but if someone had told me I would be overwhelmingly satisfied with an eating experience in Manchester I would have laughed and told them lying is a sin. But that mysterious person was right.

Ben and I went to visit our forth cousin (I don’t actually know what relation she is to me but she is my great grandfather’s sister’s granddaughter) who lives just outside of Manchester and she took us for a tour of the city. As it was a wet and soggy day, we tried to stay inside as much as possible and after visiting the John Rylands library, Lesley wanted to show us a new bar/restaurant that has opened up next door. To enter you go through a glass pyramid thing, down some steps and there you are. The restaurant is called Australasia and so I felt it appropriate that Ben and I go and visit it.

We weren’t feeling particularly hungry, however my appetite instantly sprang to life as soon as I saw the restaurant. Something inside me said, “EAT HERE!” and so the decision was made. The restaurant is a long rectangular shape that has been very well set up with tables in different sections to allow for large groups as well as quieter areas for small tables. It is light in colour and has lots of organic, wooden surfaces and lots of little details to look at.

Australasia

So pretty

The waitstaff were very friendly although half the time I had no idea what our main waitress was saying. Manchester accents are impossible. We were advised to choose lots of small dishes to share and so we did – choosing six dishes to share between the three of us. The food was what I guess is called “Asian fusion” with a very interesting mix of flavours from Japanese, Australian, British, Thai and Indonesian cuisines. And it was AMAZING.

Australasia menu

I felt at home

The food was beyond delicious – spicy, flavoursome and with some very interesting combinations of flavours and textures, I have never eaten anything like it before. All of the dishes had something interesting to say – the fishcakes with lemon grass were spicy and aromatic; the thinly sliced seared beef was tender, rich and juicy; and the pork balls were perfectly accompanied by a spicy salad that really had a kick to it.

Australasia fish

I even liked the seafood. Amazing.

Australasia Collingwood Dinkies

Collingwood Dinkies – little pies filled with different delicious flavours

Australasia tempura

Vegetable tempura – Pyramid style

Each time more food came out our mouths dropped at the presentation and then dropped even further when we came to eat it. Delicate yet strong, all of the food made me want to applaud the chefs each time it was placed on our table.

As we were eating the mains, I watched other dishes come out of the kitchen and declared that despite having eaten a rather large (and delicious) piece of chocolate cake for morning tea, I was going to need to eat a dessert. Thankfully, Ben is a fellow foodie and he had noticed the amazing concoctions that were arriving on other tables and he ordered dessert too. Lesley soon joined us as soon as ours arrived.

I am incapable of looking past the word “fondant” on a dessert menu and chose an espresso fondant served with hazelnut ice cream. A fairly simple description on the menu turned into one of the greatest desserts in human history being placed on the table in front of me.

Australasia fondant

WOW.

The fondant was cooked to utter perfection with a round, decorated piece of chocolate placed on top of the warmed pudding. As I cut into it, the chocolate melted and the fondant exploded into a gooey, oozing lava mountain.

Australasia fondant with goo

EXPLODE!

It was rich without being sickly and had a great combination of chocolate and espresso. The hazelnut ice cream was creamy and delicious and the plate was also decorated with three blobs of salted butter caramel (the ultimate accompaniment to chocolate) and clotted cream that was dotted with vanilla beans and decorated with mini meringues.

I want to marry who ever invented this dessert (sorry, Tom) because essentially they have placed every single thing that makes me happy on a plate, made it look pretty and then let me eat it.

Ben’s dessert was just as spectacular – a chocolate mousse cake served with cooked cherries. There was this amazing soft cherry foam that floated off the top of the cake. It was then served with a ball of miso ice cream which had originally put me off the dessert (plus I’m not a huge fruit with chocolate person) but turned out to be pure GENIUS. The miso added a wonderful hint of salt to the sweet chocolate and was really very delicious. Truly wonderful.

Chocolate pavé Australasia

Cherry froth!

We spent two hours eating lunch and by the time we eventually wandered up the stairs and back into the real world, the sun had started shining and it had turned into a beautiful day. Before we left, I paid a visit to the bathrooms to discover ‘dunny’ style toilets (upmarket dunnies, of course). It made me proud to be an Aussie, it did. Not really, but I am glad the best restaurant in the world (at least in my current little world) is a representation of my home country. The Poms can beat us in cricket but we cook the best food.

They are Wrong About English Food

Friday, April 6th, 2012

As I am sure you all realise by now, I generally base my enjoyment of a country on how many delicious meals I eat, and I can therefore declare that I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to England. Most people poo-poo British food, and while I agree that some of it is awful, I can also inform you that some French food is awful and that is apparently one of the best cuisines in the world. British food is definitely moving away from stodgy vegetables and mushy peas and you can now find some wonderful restaurants.

The numerous times that I have been to England, I have always managed to have a really good meal at one of the many, many pubs scattered throughout the country. They are a bit like the Parisian bistro – you have to pick wisely but you can find some that offer excellent meals. The area around Creswell isn’t exactly a culinary hub, however, in a nearby town there is a pub called the Elm Tree which I went to with Ben for dinner.

Elm Tree

British Cider at the Elm Tree

Where English pubs differ from Parisian bistros is the presence of friendly staff. AMAZING. A smile and a friendly welcome – who would have thought? Anyway, the Elm Tree is a simple local pub which appears to be very popular as we attempted to go there three times but each time it was fully booked. We ended up there on a Monday night and it wasn’t particularly busy. I had a steak which was served with hand cut chips and vegetables, and I chose a peppercorn sauce to go with it.

Elm Tree steak

Mmm... steak.

The sauce was an extra two pounds but considering I got a bucketful it was worth it. And oh was it delicious. The steak clearly came off one of the cows in the paddock nearby – very tender and perfectly cooked. Ben had a cottage pie which was very well put together and very flavoursome.

Elm Tree Cottage Pie

Ben's Cottage Pie

We both had dessert – I went for the sticky toffee pudding because I think it is the ultimate british pub dessert, while Ben had a chocolate and marshmallow brownie. My pudding was rich, sweet and moreish and was served with a tooth-breaking lump of honeycomb sticking out of it. Wonderfully good. I turned up my nose at the inclusion of marshmallow in the brownie but I was wrong – it was served with a rich, dark chocolate sauce which cut the sweetness of the marshmallow and it was a really good chocolate cake. A fantastic meal.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Look at that lump of honeycomb!

Another food highlight was a lunch in Sheffield with Ben’s friend and co-bread-maker, Martha. We went to a café called the Blue Moon which offers three vegetarian mains which come with a plate-load of salad. The meals are made from organic produce and were HUGE and very, very delicious. It was a wonderfully relaxed environment and a fun place to eat.

Blue Moon vegetables

It doesn't look like much but it sure was tasty!

Not Disgusting At All

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Restaurants should really change the name “Degustation” because, in my limited but existing experience, they’re not disgusting at all. HA. Get it? Hilarious.

Anyway, moving on from that pun, while visiting the South-West last weekend, my parents demonstrated how much they love me by taking me to The Studio Bistro for a degustation. I think they REALLY love me. I have never had a degustation menu before but my ever growing love for food has made the idea of eating that many courses potentially the best possible thing to do. Ever. I was very excited.

The Studio is a relatively new establishment with an art gallery and restaurant under the same roof. At dinner time, they spread tables throughout the gallery so you sit amongst paintings and sculptures contemplating what you will purchase after you have had a few glasses of wine. What I really liked about The Studio was the lack of pretentiousness – while the food was of a high quality and there was a general feeling of elegance, I didn’t feel like I was under review or that I had to sit with my hands folded in my lap. This was potentially due to a couple of the wait staff who were clearly still learning the ropes of how to serve in fancy restaurants. Walk to table, place hand behind back, pour water from jug slowly into glasses…

Our dinner consisted of five main dishes, plus numerous little surprises in between. One of my favourite dishes was the amuse bouche – a slice of nectarine wrapped in cured ham. Very simple yet very yum. We had crab, hot smoked tasmanian salmon (an entire fillet – it was incredible), pork belly, fillet steak and then a chocolate mousse cake for dessert. The salmon was a highlight – it melted in your mouth and has a soft smokey flavour. I had never tried pork belly before as usually the idea of eating that much fat doesn’t sit well with my stomach or thighs, so I was keen to give it a go. WOW. Who knew fat could taste so good? Well… lots of people, probably. But as a regular remover-of-skin-and-fat-from-meat, it was news to me, and I am pleased to announce that I ate every last drop of artery clogging flab. Amazing.

By the time we had reached the fillet steak, my stomach was questioning whether or not I really needed to eat more food. Shut up, stomach, was my response. The steak was beautifully cooked and despite thinking I was full, I managed to move things around in order to fit it all in. Then came the dessert.

When I had first read the menu I became instantly excited by the description of the dessert – Caraway and chocolate mousse cake with compressed stone fruits and vanilla. Oh, yes please. Sadly, the description was better than the real thing. I was expecting a real kick from the caraway but sadly I could barely taste it at all. Plus the consistency of the mousse cake was very strange – they had created multiple layers of cake, mousse, cake, mousse, but as a result, the cake had spread out through the mousse layers, giving it a very sandy texture. Mousse needs to be smooth – it’s a fact of life.

Chocolate cake

Degustation Dessert

I am still trying to work out how the stone fruit was ‘compressed’. It just looked and tasted like a piece of peach to me. Plus it was under-ripe peach to make things worse – the consistency was like eating an apple. The plate had a drizzle of a peach and vanilla sauce which was probably the highlight of the dish – lovely and refreshing. The dessert wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t what I had imagined it to be.

I found that to be the case with many of the dishes in the meal – while the food was of a high quality, the ingredients were generally fresh and the presentation was nice (except for the steak that looked a bit like someone had thrown up on it), there was something lacking. Sometimes it felt that the chef was putting too many things on one plate, other times the combination of flavours didn’t quite work. There were also far too many dishes with carbohydrate-filled root vegetables so by the end of the meal you were feeling very heavy.

It has, however, sparked a new interest for me in long, multiple-coursed meals and I plan on trying some more. I suspect the French do it very well – it is their word, after all.

Another to Add to the Dessert List

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

I have a few favourite desserts scattered throughout Paris that I seek out in order to satisfy cravings. There is the banana bread at Kooka Boora, gateau chocolate de Grandmère at Le Jardin d’en Face, and the créme brulée at Les Enfants Perdu. At one point there was also a chocolate and basil tart at Hotel du Nord but certain a grumpy waiter named Adrian has removed that from my list of must-eats. Shame, really.

Last night I managed to welcome a new addition to my “Top Desserts” list, something I was very happy to do. Let me state from the beginning that in order to be in my Top Desserts list, the dessert has to be exceptionally good. I don’t hand out this status willy-nilly! I have eaten MANY desserts and only those that really excite my taste buds and make me all gooey inside are allowed into the Top Desserts category.

Tom and I decided to celebrate my 50,000 word writing achievement and his recent skill at easily gaining freelance work by going out to dinner. We La Fourchette-d it and chose a restaurant that I had been wanting to go to for some time, Le Vernissoir. It is a cool and hip restaurant located in a side street that as we walked down it made me feel like I was walking in NoHo in New York. Very cool. Lots of little restaurants and plenty of BoBo’s hanging out and being cool-and-stuff-without-trying.

I wanted to have an early night as we have been going out a LOT lately so we booked the 7.30pm time slot. We were, of course, the only people eating and no one else came until at least an hour later. It didn’t matter – the staff were friendly and didn’t poo-poo us for being there so early. We both managed to order the exact same dishes for both mains and desserts so we didn’t really get to experience a large extent of the menu, but there were plenty of interesting items to choose from. Duck with truffles, a japanese tapioca risotto with mushrooms, and sword fish with sea urchin juice (yuck.) But we both went for the ‘thick cut’ beef with parsnips and we weren’t disappointed with our choice.

Beef

Mmm... Beef.

The meat was tender and deliciously cooked and the parsnips were a wonderful change from potatoes. I never cook with parsnips but I am now excited to do so. The sauce was soooo good although the plate was covered in a soup of olive oil which, while delicious, is sometimes a bit excessive.

Our La Fourchette booking required us to order desserts. DANG. It was an easy decision. The final item on the menu was a ‘mille feuille’ like dessert – two pieces of thin, flaky pastry with a chocolate mousse (with a very slight hint of chilli) inside and then a drizzle of salted butter caramel sauce over the top.

Chocolate dessert

Winner of Jess's Top Dessert Award

It arrived in front of me and I gasped with joy. OH YES. It was rich. It was good dark chocolate. The pastry was lightly caramelised and then the salted butter caramel sauce was just pure heaven. It was one of those desserts that you want to continue eating forever, no matter how sick you are feeling. By the end of it I was feeling very chocolate-afied and I needed a litre of water to quench my thirst but I WANT MORE!!!

And then came the joy of asking for the bill and paying a tiny amount for fabulous food and half a bottle of wine. The accessibility of eating out in Paris is something I am never going to be able to get over. I don’t know how I will survive back in Perth where for the same price as what we paid last night, I would only be able to get one main dish – no dessert, and maybe a glass of wine.

No Gnashing at Nanashi

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

A few months ago, Tom and I walked past a cafe that caught my eye and stuck in my brain as a “What is this cafe and should I go there?” kind of place. Completely coincidentally, a few days later I was reading a restaurant review on a Paris blog and realised that they were discussing the place we had walked past and its sister cafe in the Marais. The reviews were good. My mind was set – I would try it one day.

Yesterday was that day, as Tom and I met up with our friend Pip for our regular lunch and shopping outing. Nanashi is an organic Japanese fusion restaurant, describing itself as “Le Bento Parisien”. It is definitely a mix of French and Japanese food using the best of both cuisines and focuses on using wholesome, organic ingredients. I have sampled food from other Japanese  restaurants in Paris and all I will say is that it isn’t Japanese. There were cheese sticks involved and you can only buy meat-on-a-stick or sushi. The French are missing out.

Nanashi restaurant

I love restaurants with chalk board menus

The restaurant is modern and simple and the French aspect of the restaurant is easily seen in the grumpy waitstaff taking your orders (when they feel like it.) The menu is limited and you have a choice of three bento boxes – vegetarian, meat or fish. Tom and I both chose the fish bento (a salmon cake) and Pip took the meat (veal.) The first good sign was the delicious sourdough bread they gave us, upholding the necessities of free bread in a French restaurant. Sometimes it is a relief to not be served baguette.

Nanashi bread

Good bread

Our bento boxes arrived and they were amazing – my salmon cake was full of fresh salmon, potatoes and spices and then coated in a crunchy crust. The bentos came with a delicious quinoa and lentil mix, as well as three different types of salad. It was a meal that made you feel alive and full of goodness. I know some people will look at this and think it is toffee-nosed food for health-freaks but it was absolutely scrumptious and filling.

Nanashi Bento

My salmon bento

I had read about the desserts at Nanashi and wanted to try them so was relieved when my fellow lunchers wanted dessert as well. We each chose something different – Pip had a carrot cake, Tom chose the chocolate and ginger fondant, while I took a risk and chose the matcha (green tea) cheesecake. I am so glad I did.

Nanashi cake

Blurry photo but amazing cake

It was soft and rich and the bitterness of the green tea wasn’t overpowering but softened the sweetness of the cake. I don’t normally choose cheesecake as I find them too excessive but I am currently drooling and dreaming about the day I can go back and eat some more. With regularly changing menus I will definitely be revisiting this restaurant. Plus I have to go and try the original Nanashi which is only a few streets away from my apartment!